Highlights & Updates


Martina Szabo

Two-Part Discussion About Developing and Deploying a COVID-19 Vaccine

"The critical issue here is that a vaccine is the way we're going to get out of this pandemic...The challenge is should those go to a few who are able to pay and get high coverage, leaving the rest of the countries with no vaccine? Or should we have a district distribution across the world?"

—Seth F. Berkley, Chief Executive Officer, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

This week's Sustainable Development Impact Summit wrapped up with a two-part discussion about the challenges and partnerships required to develop and deliver a COVID-19 vaccine.

For the first session about the latest research and development updates, listen to Paul Stoffels, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee, Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson; Magdalena Skipper, Editor-in-Chief, Nature; and Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer, AstraZeneca, discuss how scientists are working hard to fast-track the development of a safe and effective vaccine that would typically take decades of work.

The second panel included Seth F. Berkley, Chief Executive Officer, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; Julie Gerberding, Executive Vice-President and Chief Patient Officer, MSD; Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive Officer, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI); Sai Prasad, President, DCVMN. With efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine racing ahead, leaders face the unprecedented challenge of manufacturing and distributing a vaccine worldwide. The discussion focused on how stakeholders can work together to ensure a safe, effective and globally accessible vaccine.

Including LGBTI Populations in the Response to COVID-19

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on LGBTI and vulnerable populations, increasing existing inequalities.

We co-designed this session with ILGA, OutRight, COC Nederland and RFSL, to discuss the actions that can be taken to ensure that pandemic responses leave no one behind and contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda.

This session was designed in support of the World Economic Forum’s Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality. Check out the session recording here:

Countering COVID-19 Shocks in Fragile Contexts

Due to growing challenges and inadequate resources, between 70 and 100 million people could slide into extreme poverty in 2020 and 2 million preventable deaths could occur because of health disruptions.

Today we convened a high-level panel to discuss how governments, investors, humanitarian and development actors work can together to build resilience for future shocks, including perspectives from:

  • Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • Peter Laugharn, President and Chief Executive Officer, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
  • Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
  • Catherine Cheney, West Coast Correspondent, Devex
  • Katherine Garrett-Cox, Chief Executive Officer, Gulf International Bank (UK)
  • Wissam Rabadi, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation of Jordan
  • Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

"There are almost 80 million refugees and displaced people. They represent only a fraction of the total number of vulnerable people that are impacted in different ways by Covid-19. But I think it is quite illustrative to talk about refugees because the impact on them exemplifies very much what happens to others from the health point of view."

—Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

"We've should be looking at effective multi-stakeholder partnerships between government, intergovernmental organisations, businesses, civil society and philanthropy."

—Peter Laugharn, President and Chief Executive Officer, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

"We realise that this global recession is likely to drive significant reduction in official development aid and assistance, which is extremely alarming."

—Wissam Rabadi, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation of Jordan

"We need to mobilise capital. And so I think the ask is, if you're in a corporate, put this topic of data and how we build it onto your corporate agenda."

—Katherine Garrett-Cox, Chief Executive Officer, Gulf International Bank (UK)

Prioritizing Workplace Mental Health

As we have seen and read over the past several months, the COVID-19 pandemic is negatively affecting mental health, especially as individuals shift to working in isolation, try to balance work alongside caring responsibilities, and face uncertainty over the socio-economic fallout.

Building on the work of the Forum's Global Health and Healthcare Platform, a panel and working group focused on Prioritizing Workplace Mental Health debated how businesses can better support their employees and cultivate mentally healthy workplaces, particularly in the current context.

"Companies are interested in this. But they are confused on what to do and are looking for guidance."

—Miranda Wolpert, Head, Mental Health Priority Area, the Wellcome Trust

Opening the session, Miranda Wolpert, Head of the Mental Health Priority Area at the Wellcome Trust, said that any effective approach will put lived experience at its heart. Wolpert noted that effectively addressing mental health issues necessitates including the workplace alongside healthcare settings. She urged firms to seek help from mental health organisations when designing their support for employees.

Emma Codd, Global Inclusion Leader for Deloitte, feared corporate interest in tackling mental health will drop when the pandemic passes. She also said business leaders need to show genuine interest in helping their employees with mental health issues. She says poor mental health costs UK employers up to 45 billion pounds a year.

Enoch Li, Founder and Managing Director of Bearapy, said corporate culture encouraging long working hours is a unhealthy, particularly in some Chinese tech firms. Finally, Fatima Azzahara El Azzouzi of the Global Shapers Community noted that, "if we don't see CEOs say they're struggling with their mental health - and even cry about it in front of their employees - we won't change the culture."

Watch and share the full debate below:

Advancing Social Innovation in the Face of COVID-19

In a session today dedicated to celebrating social innovation, François Bonnici, Head, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, announced the 2020 Social Innovators of the Year. We heard from three of those awardees about the challenges to drive social innovation forward in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read some highlights from the discussion below, and watch the full session including the award announcements and remarks from:

Lindiwe Matlali, Chief Executive Officer, Africa Teen Geeks

Dongshu Shen Dongshu, Chief Executive Officer, Leping Social Entrepreneur Foundation

Corinne Bazina, Head, Danone Communities Fund, Danone

Going far, not fast

Precious Moloi-Motsepe, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Motsepe Foundation, said as the African proverb goes, if you want to go fast, you go alone, if you want to go far, you go together.

"Social entrepreneurship breaks down sectors, shining a light on a collaborative path."

Lindiwe Matlali is one of the new Social Entrepreneurs and Chief Executive Officer, Africa Teen Geeks. During COVID-19 lockdown, the organization launched an online school.

"By the end of lockdown, we were reaching 500,000 children. Being able to develop fully fledged school, was exciting and chaotic but great to see how our teachers responded, they’d never taught online."

Focus on STEM

Africa is one of the least performing regions in STEM, she said, because programmes focus on the kids in the last three years of school.

"But this is too late, we need to make them passionate about maths and science. The longer you teach your child, the more comfortable they are with any subject. Early intervention is important."

Jaff Shen Dongshu, Chief Executive Officer, Leping Social Entrepreneur Foundation, is a 2020 Social Innovation Thought Leader.

He said: "We tried to make a new social ecosystem in China. How to leverage business power and technology power for good are really the main challenge for us. If we take risks, we can make things happen."

He illustrated this saying his daughter has just joined a high school set up by another high school graduate, who is 23.

"Jason [who set up the new high school] understood students waste a lot of time in the classroom to do a lot of exercises and that’s not what people need for the future. He got a lot of help from traditional educators, he understood how to leverage entrepreneurship and volunteerism."

Doing more with little

Moloi-Motsepe said: "We feel hopeful as we witness this new normal and believe social entrepreneurship will help us define society in this new era."

Matlali said we need business for the economy to grow, but also social entrepreneurs, who measure impact, not just money.

Social entrepreneurs should have a seat at the table of policymaking because they "know how to do more with little".

COVID-19 Outlook

For the past nine months, COVID-19 has claimed countless lives and has taken a toll on economies and society. How can leaders from the public and private sectors come together to mitigate the continuing threat to lives and livelihoods?

The COVID-19 Outlook discussion starts with an overview of the pandemic so far: More than 200 countries are affected, 31 million people have been infected and we are approaching one million global deaths. The end of the tunnel seems to be getting further away....

So, what next? How can leaders from the public and private sectors work together to tackle the continued threat to lives and livelihoods?

Lydie Hudson, Chief Executive Officer, Sustainability, Research and Investment Solutions at Credit Suisse says the economic recovery is likely to be a "tilted V."

She also says intervention from central banks and governments will be with us for some time, and that private-public partnerships will remain key. Financial institutions will play an important role in thinking through widespread changes to the labour market and fiscal and monetary policies, she explains.

Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria's Minister of Health, says his country took preventative measures very early, with a very proactive system for tracking, testing and self-isolating.

But he also warns that people now seem to have lost their fear of the disease, and compliance with restrictions is becoming more challenging.

"The strategy was to be early and to be fast," he says, when asked whether he could offer any advice to the global North.

Anita Zaidi, Director of Vaccine Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says the impact on other health issues is grim and depressing.

Immunisations have declined by 25% during the pandemic, five years of progress on malaria and TB have been lost, while poverty is increasing for the first time in 20 years, she explains.

"We have to work out how to get the world to recover economically so that we can recover healthwise,"

—Anita Zaidi, Director of Vaccine Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Equitable vaccines

When it comes to developing a vaccine, Anita Zaidi agrees with the WHO's estimation that a vaccine will be ready to be widely deployed by the middle of next year.

The panel also discusses the problem of vaccine nationalism: when each country wants the first line of distribution for their own citizens.

Zaidi says a global approach will be more effective in tackling the global pandemic, and is working to encourage different countries to sign the COVAX agreement to enable equitable access, especially for poorer countries. She also notes that $10 billion is needed for vaccine procurement, and those funds are still to be secured.

The financial sector will also have a part to play in connecting corporates who want to contribute to the production or distribution of a vaccine, Lydie Hudson adds.

For more on this topic, check back later in the week. The discussion on the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will continue on Thursday, 24 September with our two-part session:

Follow COVID-19 Updates During the Sustainable Development Impact Summit this Week

This week, in the context of the United Nations General Assembly, the World Economic Forum’s fourth - and for the first time, fully virtual - Sustainable Development Impact Summit will convene leaders from government, business, international organizations and civil society along with a diverse group of experts and innovators to initiate, accelerate and scale-up entrepreneurial solutions to tackle climate change and advance sustainable development.

Stay tuned for Highlights & Updates from the COVID Action Platform and discussions specifically focused on protecting lives and livelihoods from COVID-19.